For those currently in the UK with a Tier 4 student visa and married to a British citizen or someone with settled status, transitioning to a spouse visa is possible. Doing so enables them to legally work in the UK as well as apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the long run by fulfilling the requirements.
However, the journey from a student visa to a spouse visa is far from simple. It involves meeting complex eligibility criteria and following a detailed application procedure. Making a mistake could result in losing the application fee and the possibility of having to leave the UK, which may lead to separation from your partner and cause distress.
This article will dive deep into the essentials of making this critical switch. We’ll explore the eligibility criteria in detail, the application process, documentation requirements, visa fees, and processing time. Let’s get started!
Why Switch From a Student Visa to a Spouse Visa?
There are many compelling reasons in favour of transitioning from a Tier 4 student visa to a partner visa in the UK.
First, unlike a student visa, a spouse visa offers broader work permissions. Visa holders can work in the UK without the restrictions typically imposed on student visas, such as limited working hours and certain job exclusions. This flexibility opens up a wide array of employment opportunities, contributing to personal growth and financial stability.
Another big advantage is that a spouse visa can direct to permanent residence. Holders of a spouse visa can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK to remain as a spouse, provided they meet certain requirements, including continuous residence of 5 years on a valid visa and adherence to the UK immigration rules.
The visa allows individuals to live together permanently in the UK, fostering stronger family ties without the uncertainty of student visa limitations. The transition from a student to a spouse visa, thus, is not just a change in legal status but a strategic move towards building a stable and secure future in the UK.
Eligibility Prerequisites for Transitioning to a Spouse Visa UK
Here’s a detailed look at each requirement that must be fulfilled for a UK spouse visa application.
Sponsor and Age Requirement
The UK Spouse Visa mandates that the applicant and the sponsor be at least 18 years old, aligning with the UK’s legal marital age. This is a fundamental requirement for both partners. The sponsor should be a British national or someone with settled status in the UK, such as having Indefinite Leave to Remain. Meeting this requirement is the first step in proving your eligibility to switch to a spouse visa.
It’s vital to demonstrate a genuine and subsisting marital relationship for the switch to a spouse visa. The UK immigration authority verifies evidence supporting the genuineness of the connection to stop fraudulent applications.
This evidence could encompass joint financial documents, a valid marriage certificate, and other tangible proofs of a shared life. It’s crucial to convincingly demonstrate that your relationship is established on genuine grounds and not staged for the sake of obtaining a UK visa.
Financial stability plays a critical role in the approval of a spouse visa.
In the UK, the financial criteria for obtaining family visas will undergo changes, with the threshold rising from £18,600 to £29,000 on April 11th 2024 and then further increasing to £38,700 by early 2025. As these financial requirements are frequently altered by the UK government, for the latest guidelines and assistance, read our page on family visa financial requirements or contact us.
The pair has to present proof that their places of residence adhere to the Housing Act’s requirements. This includes ensuring no overcrowding and adherence to public health norms. It’s important to note that temporary accommodations, such as hotels, are typically not considered acceptable as proof of stable living arrangements.
English Language Requirements
Applicants are also needed to satisfy the bars for English language competence. This is typically demonstrated at the A1 CEFR level through approved tests like IELTS. There are, however, exceptions for certain age groups and citizens from countries where English is the first language. Moreover, if the applicant has a degree taught in English, fulfilling this requirement by taking a test might not be necessary.
The Spouse Visa Application Process
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you understand how to apply for a spouse visa from within the UK:
Before anything else, it’s crucial to thoroughly familiarise yourself with the particular visa you desire to apply. This involves understanding all the eligibility requirements and necessary documentation for the spouse visa application.
Filling the Application Form
The application for a UK spouse visa must be made online (although there are some options for in-person application). You will need to fill out a specific form to do so. The application form is segmented into various parts, each asking for specific details about you, your spouse, and your circumstances. Be sure to enter precise details in the form.
Application Submission and Fee Payment
After completing the form, the next critical step is submitting it alongside the required fees. These include the Immigration Health Surcharge and the application fee itself. Once paid, you’ll receive confirmation receipts by email, which are important for your records and any future correspondence.
With your application submitted, the next move is to book a biometric appointment at your local UK visa application centre. This step involves giving fingerprints and photographs, which are essential for your visa processing. At the biometric appointment, you can also upload your supporting documents beforehand or bring them with you.
Receiving the Decision on the Visa
After your application is submitted, the UK Home Office will acknowledge receipt of your application. You will be alerted via email or SMS when a decision has been made. The visa centre will alert you when the documents are prepared for pickup. Upon collection, you will receive your passport with the decision letter. If granted, your passport will include a visa stamp (vignette), which is typically valid for 30 days.
Documents Needed for the Application
When applying for a UK Spouse Visa, whether from inside or outside the UK, the compilation of the right documents is a critical step. These include:
- Valid Passport and Travel History: Your current passport and any previous passports to show your travel history. This helps to demonstrate your identity and any previous immigration history.
- Proof of Relationship: This includes your marriage certificate or civil partnership documentation. It’s critical to prove that your marriage or civil partnership is legal and authentic in the UK.
- Financial Documents: It is essential to prove that you have the required funds. These might include bank statements, savings accounts, paystubs from a job, or other financial records.
- Accommodation Evidence: You need to provide proof of adequate living arrangements in the UK. This could be a tenancy agreement, a mortgage statement, or a letter from a family member or friend confirming you will be living with them.
- English Language Proficiency: Unless exempt, you need to give proof that you satisfy the English language requirement, such as a certificate from an approved test.
Remember, each document must be in the accepted format and translated into English if necessary. Depending on specific circumstances, the list may differ significantly. For individualised guidance, it’s always a good idea to speak with an immigration lawyer or spouse visa solicitor.
Visa Fees and Processing Time
Knowing the fees involved in applying for a UK Spouse Visa is important. For those submitting their applications from inside the UK, the fee amounts to £1,048. However, applicants outside the UK will incur a fee of £1,846.
Beyond the basic application fee, you will also need to disburse the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). Currently, it is £1,035. This surcharge ensures that you have access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) during your stay, providing healthcare benefits comparable to those permanent UK residents enjoy.
As for the processing time of a UK Spouse Visa, it typically ranges from 8 to 12 months. However, the exact timeframe may differ. Several factors influence this duration, including how thoroughly and accurately the application is completed, the specific complexities of your case, the volume of applications being processed, etc.
Need Help With the Switch?
If you’re considering transitioning from a student visa to a spouse visa in the UK and find the process overwhelming, we are here to help you. Our team of seasoned immigration lawyers, specialising in UK immigration law, are committed to personalised legal advice to ensure your application complies with the latest regulations. Whether you’re applying from within or outside the UK, we offer tailored solutions for spouse visa applications.
Contact us today for an initial consultation to understand how we can make your application successful!
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The information provided in our articles is intended solely for guidance and should not be considered legal advice. We do not assume responsibility for any liabilities arising from the information in written articles and recommend that all readers seek professional advice before taking any action. For those wishing to discuss their case with a professional, please feel free to contact us directly.
Dr Bernard Andonian has over four decades of experience as a London-based UK Immigration Solicitor and was also a former immigration Judge. He has been awarded a PhD in Law from the University of West London for his in-depth knowledge of UK immigration and nationality law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts whilst representing clients in the UK, and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.